Archive for June, 2012

Academy for Young Entrepreneurs poster (get a hard copy here)

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka and social entrepreneurship visionary, is fond of asking parents, firstly, “what would you do if your child was failing maths?” Parents instinctively have an answer for this. They would spend more time with them doing their home, get them a tutor, buy a math training program. Then he asked, “what would you do if your child was failing to develop as a changemaker?” and the answers come much less readily.

How do we create a culture of changemaking in young people? By giving them opportunities to share their ideas and participate in creating change of course!

You get better at maths by doing more maths. You get better at sport by joining a team,  practicing and playing. We have clear pathways for gaining expertise in academics and sports but it’s only more recently that we’ve begun to see a focus on providing changemaking experiences for people at a younger age and preparing them for active citizenship.

This is something Ashoka has understood for some time, having launched Ashoka Youth Venture over ten years ago to support 16-20 year-olds to develop their own initiatives, and more recently establishing AshokaU to foster a culture of entrepreneurship on college campuses.  In Australia we’ve seen the establishment of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, who run year-long courses supporting emerging social entrepreneurs of all ages to launch and scale social impact ventures and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, of Social Startup 48, a startup weekend-style event for aspiring changemakers. I’m proud to say all the above organisations are partners of StartSomeGood.

I’m also thrilled to see more and more organisations using StartSomeGood to fill gaps in this ecosystem of opportunity, inspiring, mentoring and training young people to create the future they wish to see.

One Can Grow finished a successful fundraiser on our site just a couple of weeks ago and is piloting a social entrepreneurship training program for students at three high school in Sydney. Hope Empowered is currently raising funds to engage an even younger cohort in entrepreneurial activity with their Academy for Young Entrepreneurs Initiative which will focus at the primary school level. (If you like the sound of this please chip in here). And the organisation I founded 12 years ago, Vibewire, has just, as of this writing, hit the tipping point of their StartSomeGood fundraising campaign to support three younger social entrepreneurs (under 35) to work on issues of critical importance including mental health and sustainable design.

At StartSomeGood we believe that social entrepreneurs need three types of capital to succeed: financial, intellectual and relational. Our mission is to reduce the barriers to raising early-stage financial capital for nonprofits and changemakers through peerfunding (also called crowdfunding). As these barriers come down more social entrepreneurs are stepping up to launch programs which general these other forms of capital, teaching skills and providing community for aspiring social entrepreneurs.

So these initiatives and those like them expand the answer to how to encourage your child to learn changemaking skills will become more apparent and a new generation of changemakers and entrepreneurs will, from an early age, know they can create the future we all need.

How do you think we could better support young changemakers?

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HourSchool classes

I attended my first workshop at General Assembly tonight, Introduction to the Sydney Startup Community, at the Fishburners co-working space. I attended not so much to learn about the elements of the startup process, which is not so new to me now, but to check out Fishburners for the first time, get a sense of how the newly-launched General Assembly Sydney was going and meet other local startups.

General Assembly is part of a new educational ecosystem which is fueling a renaissance in lifelong learning in our society. Whereas it used to be about lobbying your work to send you to (expensive) day-long workshops or multi-day training programs or saving up the funds to learn a new skill, now, for free or at low cost, you can choose to pursue continuing education and professional development on a huge variety of topics and in a manner that suits you and your learning style.

This has been achieved in many cases by democratizing now only who can learn but more importantly who can teach – allowing those with the knowledge to share it with those most eager to gain it, both online and offline. It’s this sudden supply of topic experts and new platforms which link us to them which has reduced the cost and increased the availability of learning opportunities. It’s an exciting trend.

General Assembly began in New York where they maintain a campus with permanent classrooms, co-working offices and community space. GA Sydney launched just last month and already has a full roster of upcoming classes at low cost, usually around $40. Skillshare allows anyone to propose a class and take bookings through its website. Where General Assembly tends to focus on tech and startup oriented classes Skillshare is literally for anything, you can do classes in bee-keeping or knitting, photoshop or poker.

Codecademy does away with the classroom completely, breaking down the process of learning to code into simple bite-sized chunks delivered online and inspiring over a million people to commit to learning to program this year (how many of them are following through however is unknown).

And the opportunities keep multiplying in a million different directions, with services like coachy which allow you to line up online coaching with a topic expert and Ohours which encourages you to offer real-world “office hours” to share what you know. Our Pitch Some Good event in Austin during SXSW this year was won by HourSchool who, somewhat like Skillshare, facilitate in-person teaching on, for instance, motorbike repair, in an hour a pop, and also included Pocket Hotline who facilitate telephone help lines on a variety of topics including rails, adhd and baking.

Whatever you want to learn, there’s probably someone prepared to teach it to you. And if you’re a bit of an expert on something interesting, fun or useful, why not offer to teach the rest of us? We’re ready to learn.

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